• Operation Eyesight Universal NGO says nearly 3.6 million people are in need of antibiotic treatment in Kenya and Tanzania to halt trachoma transmission.
• Trachoma is listed by WHO as one of the 20 neglected tropical diseases and said to be the leading infectious cause of blindness in the world.
Kenya and Tanzania launched the first joint mass drug administration for trachoma control targeting trans border Maasai community.
Health officials from both countries and non-governmental organisations converged at Oloposimorum village in Narok West to launch the exercise on Tuesday.
The exercise will involve distribution of medicine to approximately one million residents for five days in Narok and Kajiado in Kenya and Longido and Ngorongoro in Tanzania.
According to the World Health Organization, trachoma is a disease of the eye caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.
The disease spreads by flies that have been in contact with discharge from the eyes or nose of an infected person. Blindness from trachoma is irreversible.
In Kenya, 934,665 persons are set to benefit with 576,091 people drawn from Narok and 358,574 from Kajiado county.
Some 228,360 people are also expected to be treated in Ngorongoro with 161,367 others targeted in Longido in Tanzania.
Kenya’s director of Health Patrick Amoth said the simultaneous mass drug administration is intended to capture the migratory population along the border points.
He said due to social and ecological complexity of endemic border points, independent country mass drug administrations have not been effective in reaching majority of community members.
“We have realised that continued siloed mass drug administration delivery strategy may be therefore insufficient to bring out sustainable elimination along endemic border points.
"As result, we are working to synchronise our treatment in the greater East African region,” Amoth said in a speech read by the head of vector borne and NTDs Wyckliff Omondi.
According to Operation Eyesight Universal NGO, the organisation implementing the project, nearly 3.6 million people are in need of antibiotic treatment in Kenya and Tanzania to halt trachoma transmission.
The NGOs’s country manager Alice Mwangi said without the partnerships it will be very difficult to eradicate trachoma.
“We have drilled 46 boreholes, serving close to 500 community members and educated them on prevention of trachoma.
"We are seeing the community moving away from some cultural behaviours that promote trachoma risk factors,” she said.
Tanzania’s programme manager for neglected tropical diseases George Kabona said, “we wouldn’t want sicknesses to cross from one country to another because there is no wall that prevents people from interacting.”
Trachoma is listed by WHO as one of the 20 neglected tropical diseases and said to be the leading infectious cause of blindness in the world.
In Kenya, the disease was confirmed to be endemic in 12 counties in 2004 but government efforts have reduced the prevalence in seven counties.
Other partners in project are International Trachoma Initiative, Sightsavers and USAID.
(Edited by Bilha Makokha)